Monza - The cathedral
The cathedral of Monza is a work of the fourteenth century dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
However, it seems that it is built on the site of the palatine chapel commissioned by Queen Teodolinda. Monza was - in the sixth century - summer residence of the Longobards kings.
Teodolinda, Bavarian princess, widow of Autari king of the Longobards and after wife of Agilulfo, founded the original chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist in 595.
The queen - who worked for the conversion of the Longobards from Arianism to Catholicism - was buried there in 627 and still rests in the cathedral.
The actual cathedral - in which Matteo da Campione worked (perhaps heir of those "maestri campionesi" in the eleventh and twelfth centuries were going around Europe to decorate churches and monasteries) - retains very little things of the palatine church commissioned by Teodolinda.
Probably the two-tails mermaids have the duty to refer to previous periods. Perhaps responsibles for keeping the memory, too often threatened by fervent modernizers.
The two-tailed mermaid decorating the high window of the Teodolinda Chapel (the original is kept in the cathedral museum) was found during excavations in the perimeter of the cathedral. Equally able to tell us about a distant past are the mermaids that decorate one of the pillars on the left side of the main nave.
The Chapel of Teodolinda, decorated with frescoes of the XIV century probably painted by the Zavattari, preserves besides the queen's sarcophagus also the famous 'iron crown' which has always been a symbol of the imperial power that - as a relic - is kept not in the museum but in the cathedral, in a case inside the Teodolinda chapel.
The gold plates that form it - according to tradition - are held together by an iron circle obtained by the fusion of one of the nails that held Christ to the cross and found by Saint Helena - mother of the emperor Constantine - in one of the his trips to the Holy Land.
We are used to considering artistic and historical heritage as humanity heritage. We believe that the treasures - big or small they are - must be defended and valued. We are not scandalized if we are asked to pay a ticket as an individual contribution to guarantee the use of the goods.
But to visit the site of Monza (January 2018) you have to pay more than to visit the excavations of Pompei! It is also forbidden to photograph (even without flash) and the Teodolinda chapel with its frescoes and the famous 'iron crown' is subtracted from not paying eyes by a livid-colored drap.
We have had the distinct sensation that the Teodolinda Chapel and the Museum of the Monza Duomo which preserves notable historical-artistic treasures accumulated over 1500 years have been miserably removed from the common heritage and subjected to modern 'pay per view'.
Approaching the ear to the sarcophagus of Teodolinda maybe you too hear the queen tossing around restless!